Giving time and giving money: separate but equal?
Volunteerism and financial donations are both important
A chicken and a pig who knew that farmer John was under financial stress wanted to help out. The chicken said to the pig, “I will give farmer John some of my eggs if you give some of your bacon.” To which the pig responded, “For you, that’s a sacrifice, but for me, that’s total commitment!”
Time vs. money
As I get around, one question I hear is whether it’s OK to tell people that giving time is just as valuable as giving money. What do you think?
We certainly value and encourage service and volunteerism. We have a history and a theology that backs up this practice of voluntary service. In some ways, this question is similar to the issue raised by the chicken. It’s like comparing eggs with bacon. For me, both are important – it’s not a matter of choosing one or the other.
Money represents security, independence and personal freedom. It gives us the ability to have choices between addressing needs and satisfying wants.
Time is a valuable resource as well, but it doesn’t carry the same emotional ties that money does. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.” He didn’t say anything about serving God vs. time, because time does not have the same hold on us that money does.
I believe that money has a hold on us until and unless we voluntarily release it and let go of it as an offering to God. It’s been suggested that the antidote to greed is generosity.
Behind this question of giving money and/or time is that some people genuinely struggle with adequate financial resources, and time becomes a resource they do have to give away. In these cases, we absolutely want to create alternative ways for people to participate in being generous. But far too many people who are able to give something use the time argument as a way of hanging onto financial resources that end up having a hold on them.
Paul spoke to this issue of giving financially when he appealed to Gentile churches to collect money for the needs of Jewish believers back in Jerusalem.
“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” Romans 15:26-27
Barna reports on time and money
A 2018 study by Barna found that a gap exists between pastors and laity on whether it’s acceptable for a church member to substitute volunteering for financial giving.
More than 8 of 10 pastors disagree strongly (67 percent) or somewhat (18 percent) that, “It is OK for a member who volunteers extensively not to give financially.” But only 21 percent of laypeople (10 percent strongly + 11 percent somewhat disagree) are on the same page with pastors. (Barna Trends: 2018, Baker Books, pages 147-148)
Barna suggests that this disparity between the two groups may result from how pastors and others talk about giving. Only 39 percent of pastors say they or other leaders speak from the pulpit about tithing or giving money. But more than 6 in 10 say they or other leaders speak from the pulpit about volunteering.
If we talk more about volunteering and honor those who give their time, but don’t speak of financial generosity, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the results and confusion over giving time and money.
Each one of you … in keeping with your income
Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
Comparing the giving of money and time is a bit like comparing apples and oranges – or should I say bacon and eggs? Both acts of generosity are important and valued by God, but one has a deeper and more emotional hold on our heart, and maybe our soul.
For help with developing a sermon series on living generously, which includes giving financially, contact your Everence® Stewardship Consultant or go to everence.com/resources/pastors-and-church-leaders and check out the sermon, The Widow Who Redefined Generosity, and other resources for pastors.